Most evangelism tools assume you are already in a conversation with someone. These tools help us clearly present the gospel, but they rarely help us start conversations.
Here are a few tips I have found helpful for initiating conversations that naturally lead to the gospel. Most are from the books Sent, by Ashley and Heather Holleman, and God Space, by Doug Pollock.
See people as Jesus does
Gospel conversations happen as a result of seeing people the way Jesus does. We need to slow down enough to care for others first as individuals. When people feel you truly care, it opens doors for deeper conversations. Make this your daily prayer: “Lord, help me to see others as you do.”
Smiling is a visible way to show your joy in God and love for others. A smile shows that you are friendly and approachable—something people look for when engaging in conversations.
Find something to comment on
You can comment on something you have in common with the person like the weather or shared experiences. You can notice something they enjoy and comment on it (for example, pets or hobbies). You can also notice something to genuinely compliment them on. What you say doesn’t have to be earth shattering, just something to break the ice. Finding common ground is easiest when we are involved in activities and hobbies with unbelievers—be “a friend of sinners.”
Ask open questions about the other person
Be curious! Being curious helps us ask deeper questions that people love to answer. People love to talk about themselves and things they find interesting—asking questions shows that we care about them as a person. “Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others” (Philippians 2:4).
Most people will mention, often in passing, the things they love or want to talk about. As they tell you about themselves, try to actively listen and ask follow-up questions. Using open questions promotes good conversation because they take some explanation and cannot be answered with yes or no.
What made you want to become a _____?
Why do you enjoy _____?
Look for open doors to plant gospel seeds
As you talk with people, notice opportunities for deeper, spiritual questions or comments. This doesn’t mean noticing opportunities to monologue a gospel presentation. Our goal is to talk with the person, not at them. The goal is deeper dialogue. Actively listening and staying curious creates a safe place for people to share their true selves. When they do, they may share specific needs, concerns, or questions that need God’s help. They may also share hopes, dreams, and values that reveal their deepest longings. All of these can open doors to point people to God. Pray that God will “open to us a door for the word, to declare the mystery of Christ” (Colossians 4:3). I use a daily reminder on my phone at 4:03p.m. to “pray for open doors.”
Here are four ways to plant gospel seeds:
1. Mention God, prayer, and the Bible in conversation
Just talk about God as a natural part of your everyday life.
2. Quote or paraphrase the Bible
Look for opportunities to use the phrase: “What you’re saying reminds me of something I read in the Bible where God says ________.” 1
3. Use questions
Here are a few helpful questions:
- “What does your tradition say about Jesus?
- Do you consider yourself on a spiritual journey? What is that like? Where are you on that journey?
- I’m in a fresh season of prayer. Do you have any prayer requests I might commit to pray for?
- Can I tell you something I just learned in the Bible that’s changing how I handle ________? ” 2
After using one of the above questions, you can follow up with another question to talk about Jesus. “You can probably tell I’m a Christian and someone who studies the Bible. . . . Do you happen to have any questions about Jesus I could answer for you?” 3 This gives people an open invitation to ask anything they are curious about. For more examples of great questions, check out God Space.
Questions like these are helpful in many contexts, but there is no one-size-fits-all question. The best questions are those that come from actively listening and staying curious. When we listen and then form our questions based on what the person just said, the questions will fit naturally into the conversation.
4. Share stories
When it is fitting, share a brief story of how God has worked in your life–your salvation story, an example of personal surrender, or a story of answered prayer. Close the story with a Bible verse that highlights God’s work in the story. Stories are helpful, but only God’s word is powerful unto salvation.
Invite a response
Not every conversation has to include a gospel presentation or invitation to respond. People may need to believe foundational truths like the existence of God before we share a complete gospel presentation or invite a response. Starting conversations can create a safe space to discuss spiritual things and plant seeds of truth. As Jesus said: “One sows and another reaps” (John 4:37).
When do we move from explaining how to know God personally to inviting someone to respond? Wait for the leading of the Holy Spirit. When he leads, you can ask: What about you? Who do you believe Jesus is?
If God doesn’t lead in this way, invite them to continue the conversation or study the Bible. Say something like:
I enjoyed this conversation. Would you like to talk more about this another time?
I would love to talk more about this. Would you like to get together to look at what the Bible has to say about this?
A word of caution: Gospel conversations should be just that–conversations. They shouldn’t be a canned script. No one wants to talk to a robot. Use questions. Be yourself. Share from your heart and connect with people.
Keep building deeper relationships and deeper connections to God’s word. Be bold to start conversations and look for open doors for the gospel! God’s “well done” goes to those who steward the gospel well by spreading it to others, one conversation at a time.
To read more about having a heart that overflows to others, check out Kyle’s book Overflowing.
1. Heather Holleman and Ashley Holleman, Sent, (Chicago: Moody, 2020), 65, Kindle edition.
2. Holleman and Holleman, Sent, 152.
3. Holleman and Holleman, Sent, 155.